Without me, p.19
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       Without Me, p.19
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         Part #5 of Men of Inked series by Chelle Bliss
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  tears in his eyes.

  “When can I see her?” Ma asked as she kissed Joe on the cheek.

  “They just need a little time and then everyone can go in and see them.”

  “Do you have a name, son?” Pop asked as he stood beside Ma.

  “Yes. It’s Giovanna Bianca.” He beamed as he said her name. He stood a bit straighter with his shoulders pushed back. The pride he felt at his new title of father was clearly evident.

  “Gigi,” Ma whispered. “You named her after my mother.” She covered her mouth as she began to cry.

  “We did.” Joe grabbed my ma and stared down at her. “It’s the perfect name for my little Italian princess.”

  Joe went into graphic detail describing the birth of his baby girl. At times, I felt faint. I’d seen plenty of crazy shit. Hell, I’d seen things come out of a pussy that weren’t natural, but seeing a human being slide out, even a small one, was just wrong. He gushed over having been able to cut the umbilical cord and how a small piece of him would live on forever.

  The entire time he spoke, I held Max’s hand as she listened and seemed totally enthralled. For a woman who didn’t want children, she was mesmerized and hung on every word.

  Twenty minutes later, the family was given the go-ahead to see Suzy and Gigi. We let Ma and Pop go back first and spend time with the baby before we went in as a group.

  “You doing okay, Max?” I asked as we waited.

  “Yeah. I am,” she answered quietly.

  “You seem off.” I stroked her hand as we sat side by side in the waiting room.

  “I’m not. It’s just…”

  “What is it? You know you can tell me anything.”

  “Sometimes, I get sad when I think I’ll never be a mother.” She frowned as she stared down at our hands.

  “You can be a mother. There’s nothing stopping you, Max.”

  “I do not want to pass my bad genes on to a baby.”

  I sat there a moment, thinking about what she’d said. I could understand it. No one wants to give their child a life filled with illness. There isn’t a person on the planet that has been guaranteed a lifetime of healthiness. We all experience some type of health issue in our life, whether it be cancer or some other ailment.

  “Max, do you wish your parents never had you?” I asked her. It was the only thing I had thought to say.

  “No.”

  “Have you had a happy life?”

  “Yes. For the most part, I have.”

  “Even with knowing how your future could turn out, would you want it to end now?”

  “No. Stop asking stupid questions.”

  “Listen to me. Just because the baby would have a small chance of getting the gene doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be born. If you had said you wished your parents had never had you, then I’d agree with you. But you said you’ve had a happy life and you want to live. Maybe being a mother will bring you more joy than anything else in your life. Maybe you can have a healthy baby.”

  She sighed and blew a puff of air through her lips. “I don’t know, Anthony. It’s a big decision. If the baby is born with the gene, I’d feel so guilty.”

  “Do you want your parents to feel guilty about your life? Are you mad at them for having had you?”

  I didn’t know where all of this was coming from. Six months ago, all I’d cared about was banging my way through life and living in blissful ignorance of love. Now, I was in deep. So far down that I couldn’t imagine a life without Max anymore.

  “Of course not.”

  “Then why would your baby feel that way about you? If you don’t wish you weren’t born, neither will they, no matter the outcome of their health. Nothing is guaranteed, Max. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow and die.”

  “What did you do with my boyfriend?” she asked as she peered up at me.

  “Fiancé,” I said. “I don’t know what happened to me. You happened to me and mixed up my head.”

  “I kind of miss my asshole sometimes, but times like this, when you’re so sweet and smart, I realize why I love you.”

  “Why is that?” I was fishing for a compliment. Max wasn’t always so willing to hand them out. When she was in the mood, I made sure to get as much as I could.

  “You have the perfect mix of asshole and lover. Just when I think you’ve hit your asshole streak, you come back saying such beautiful things that you make my heart melt.”

  “And what does the asshole do to you? I know it’s that part of me that you were first attracted to.”

  “He makes my panties melt,” she whispered, and bit her lip.

  “Ahhh. I always knew that girls secretly wanted an asshole.”

  I had known it. Even though they all said that they wanted the nice guy, they really wanted a mix. They wanted the asshole in the bedroom, banging their brains out, and the sweet guy the other times. I could be both. Fuck, I had been my entire life.

  “I only want one asshole, Anthony.”

  “I’m your man, then, Kitty Cat.” I grinned, bringing her hand to my mouth and kissing the top.

  “Anthony and Max,” Joe said from the doorway as he watched us. “You want to see Gigi?”

  “Hell yes,” I said.

  We followed Joe down the hallway past a set of windows behind which little babies slept peacefully in their small plastic beds. They looked so sweet and quiet, but I remembered how loud a baby actually was, since I’d lived through the infancy of my siblings. Izzy had screamed the loudest and most. We should’ve known then that she’d be nothing but trouble.

  I held Max’s hand as we entered the room. Suzy had Gigi in her arms as she looked up at us and smiled.

  “Ah, look who came to see you, Gigi. It’s your asshole uncle, Anthony.” Suzy giggled.

  “Don’t mind her,” Joe said as he patted my shoulder. “She’s on some pain meds from the birth.”

  I chuckled, liking the calmer side of Suzy.

  “It’s cool, man.” I patted him on the stomach and walked toward Suzy. “Can I hold her?” I asked, holding out my arms as I stood at her bedside.

  “Sure.” Suzy gently placed her in my arms.

  I sat down on the edge and cradled her. She was so tiny—much smaller than I remembered my siblings being. Maybe it was because I was bigger that she seemed that much smaller.

  Gigi was wrapped in a pink blanket with one hand sticking out. Her long fingers moved as if searching for something. Holding her tight to my chest, I stared at her and instantly fell in love. Her straight, dark hair was like Izzy had when she was born—full and wild.

  I bounced her lightly and touched her hand with my finger. Her tiny digits clamped down on my finger with force.

  “Isn’t she beautiful?” Joe asked as he stood next to Suzy on the other side of the bed.

  “She is,” I agreed, and looked at Ma. “Look how perfect she is.” I stared down at Gigi and rubbed the back of her hand in the same motion I used when I wanted to reassure Max. “It’s amazing.”

  “Look at you getting all mushy, Anthony,” Suzy said, but I didn’t bother to look at her.

  “She’s a Gallo. I have a right to be mushy.”

  “God, she’s gorgeous,” Max cooed as she touched her cheek.

  Gigi turned and tried to latch on to Max’s finger as she stroked her cheek.

  “You can hold her if you want, Max,” Joe said.

  For a moment, I felt a pang of jealously. I didn’t want to let her go. I wasn’t ready to share her with anyone else, even Max.

  When Max said, “I’d love to,” and held out her arms, I gently handed her over.

  I’d have a lifetime to spoil the little girl. I could be the cool uncle who bought her the best toys and let her run wild. I wanted to be that guy. I didn’t want to be the self-consumed douchebag I had probably been months ago.

  As I scanned the room, I realized how much love I’d always had in my life. Suzy and Joe gazed at each other. Their love shined brightly and seemed to grow over time. I
d always secretly envied them for the way they loved each other. I hadn’t thought I’d find someone who would make my heart skip a beat until I’d met Max.

  “It’s a miracle,” Max whispered, brushing her lips to Gigi’s head and inhaling. “There’s nothing like the smell of a new baby.”

  I smiled at her, feeling everything inside of me warm. I loved this woman. I wanted to make babies with her. I wanted to watch her blow up like a balloon like Suzy had and carry a piece of me inside her.

  More importantly, I wanted a piece of us to live on long after we were gone. It was the only way to have us be remembered.

  “You want one?” I asked Max with one eyebrow raised.

  “It’s not that simple.”

  “It is,” I said. “I think we should go home and get to work on that ASAP.” I clutched Max’s hips, trying to convey the sense of urgency.

  “Anthony,” she said as she glanced down at me and pulled Gigi closer to her chest.

  “Did you two hear the news?” I asked Suzy and Joe.

  “No,” they replied at the same time.

  “Max and I are getting married.”

  “Oh. My. God!” Suzy yelled.

  “Way to go, man.” Joe said as he hung over the bed and shook my hand. “You better marry her fast before she realizes what an asshole you really are.”

  “Nah,” I said. “She loves when I’m an asshole. It’s how I plan to get her knocked up.”

  Suzy and Joe cracked up.

  “Let’s let them have some time with Gigi before the rest of the family comes in, Max.”

  She nodded and gave Gigi a kiss on the cheek. I dipped down, kissing her too as I took one last chance to hold her hand.

  “Night, little Gigi,” I whispered against her face.

  She let out a small cry and turned her mouth toward me. Cool baby spit landed on my nose. I was done for, and there was no turning back. She’d given me her first kiss, and it would be forever seared in my brain.

  “Are you tearing up?” Max asked as she started to hand Gigi back to Suzy.

  “No!” I shot back as I tried to blink away the mist that had formed in my eyes. “It’s the air in here. It’s killing my contacts.”

  “Um, I didn’t know you wore contacts,” Max said with her face all scrunched up like she knew I was full of shit.

  “He doesn’t,” Joe piped in.

  “Shut up.” I stood from the bed and hooked my arm over Max’s shoulder. “Let’s get out of here. We have a wedding to plan and a baby to make.”

  “Fuck me,” Max blurted.

  “I plan to, Kitty Cat. I plan to,” I said as I waved goodbye over my shoulder.

  When we walked out of the room, we could hear Suzy and Joe laughing their asses off. Nothing in the world could get me down. I had my woman by my side, my family tighter than ever, and a little niece who had captured my heart forever.

  Karma had finally switched teams.

  What the hell happened to my life? Oh yeah, Hurricane Anthony made landfall and wreaked havoc on my life. Months ago I was alone, and for the most part I was okay with that. Now he had me dreaming of babies and planning a trip down the aisle.

  I would’ve never imagined him to look so damn good with a baby in his arms. When I saw him hold Gigi, the way he looked at her as he talked to her made my heart melt. I couldn’t deny him the chance of having one of his own. It would be a way to leave a piece of us on this earth forever.

  Even facing an uncertain future, I couldn’t say no to a baby any longer. I wouldn’t give up any bit of my life even with the knowledge of a crappy future. There’s no guarantee when having a baby that they’ll be healthy and have the most amazing life. Our only job is to love them and give them every opportunity at happiness. Anthony had made me believe this. Seeing the way he held Gigi made me believe it. To deny him of the ability to love a baby with his whole being would be wrong.

  The one thing I knew for sure: I no longer wanted to wait to start living my life. I was on the high board and ready to do the biggest belly flop of my life and welcome the impact it would have on my future.

  17

  Giving In

  I thought I always looked good, but I was wrong.

  At least, that was what Max told me after she agreed to be my wife.

  “You need some new clothes,” she declared one night as we walked along the beach, letting the waves lap at our feet.

  “Why? What’s wrong with what I have?”

  “You wear decent clothes, but you need to look more…” She looked out over the ocean.

  “More what, Max?” I asked as I stopped walking and pulled her back with her hand.

  Her chest collided with mine as she began to laugh. “I just want to dress you. It’s what I do for a living, Anthony. Jeans and a T-shirt are good sometimes, but at other times, I want a man of style by my side.”

  “I always look good.”

  “I never said you didn’t.” She brushed her lips against my chin as her fingers crept up the back of my shirt.

  A shiver cascaded over my body as her nails grazed my lower back. “So then why?” I kissed the top of her nose, looking down in her chocolate eyes.

  “It will be fun. Please, baby. Let me take you shopping and dress you up.”

  “Like I’m a real-life Ken doll?” I cradled her face in my hands and smiled.

  “Exactly. Think of how much fun it’ll be.” She smiled.

  I’d found it hard to say no to anything she asked me ever since she agreed to be my wife. I was sure there’s a line somewhere I wouldn’t cross, but I hadn’t found it yet.

  “Okay, but it doesn’t sound like fun at all,” I whined before I crushed my lips to hers.

  The waves crashed against our legs as I held her in my arms. The beach was empty and the sun was setting with a brilliant orange and red glow behind us. When I released her lips, her eyes remained closed and her lips stayed puckered.

  Before she opened them, I pulled away and removed the ring from my pocket. I’d let her pick it out and had finally picked it up from the jewelers. It was a brilliant three-carat princess-cut diamond set in a platinum band. I’d felt shitty about how I’d asked her. It was so unromantic to drop down on one knee in the doctor’s office, but I wanted her to know how serious I was about our relationship.

  “Max,” I said as I kneeled in the sand and held her left hand.

  Her eyes fluttered open as her face drifted down.

  I held the ring up and kissed her fingertips one by one. “I’m so in love with you, Max. I’ve never had a woman who has driven me as crazy as you have.”

  “Is this supposed to be good?” she interrupted.

  “Shush, woman. I’m not done.” I cleared my throat and she laughed. “I knew from the first time I touched you that there was something different about you. I couldn’t get you out of my mind, no matter how hard I tried. Your sassy mouth and bitchy attitude hooked me.”

  “I should’ve been like Candy,” she teased.

  “Never mention her name again.” I tugged her arm, pulling her down in the sand with me as she threw her arms around my neck. “You’re the only woman for me. Even to this day, months later, I still feel the spark when I kiss your lips. There isn’t an hour of the day that goes by when I don’t think of you. No matter what happens in the future, I want to be there with you. Max, I’m asking today if you’ll marry me and be mine forever?”

  Her grin turned into a giant smile as she sniffled. “I love you, Anthony Gallo. There isn’t anything I want more in the world than to become Mrs. Anthony Gallo.”

  “Yeah?” I asked as I slipped the ring on her finger.

  “Yeah, baby. You’re the only man in the world who would put up with my bullshit. Now if I can only get you to dress a little better, we’ll have a bright future.” She laughed as she waved her fingers and stared down at the rock that glistened in the vanishing sunlight.

  “Such a shit,” I said as I grabbed her sides and started to tickler her.
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  “Anthony!” She giggled and lost her balance, falling backward.

  I landed on top of her and pushed myself up so I wouldn’t crush her. “I love you,” I whispered against her soft lips.

  She ran her hand through my hair. “I love you too. Thank you.”

  “For what?”

  “Being a cocky asshole,” she murmured against my mouth.

  “Speaking of assholes.” I wiggled my eyebrows.

  “After I say I do.”

  “Let’s elope,” I declared, feeling like it couldn’t get here soon enough.

  “No way! I’m going to wear the prettiest dress I can find. I’m not missing my walk down the aisle in a designer gown just so you can fuck me in the ass.”

  “You make it sounds so tawdry. I do remember you violating me the first night we spent together.”

  “And you fucking loved it. You were all twitchy and gasping for air.”

  “Enough,” I said, feeling slightly embarrassed.

  “When you were all, ‘Oh God. Yes, Max. Deeper, Max.’” She laughed.

  “I never said deeper,” I said as my cheeks heated.

  “We’ll see if you do tonight,” she added as she pulled my face against hers and kissed me.

  “Mm,” I mumbled into her kiss as my stiff prick pressed into her thigh.

  “Take me home,” she said as she released my lips.

  “Gladly, but only if you’re going to do that special thing with your finger.”

  She snickered, pressing her head into the sand. “I knew you liked it.”

  “Only when you do it, baby,” I said as I pushed myself up to my knees.

  “Tonight you get what you want and tomorrow I get what I want.”

  “Anal?” I asked, feeling hopeful.

  “Clothes.” She smiled as she used my arm to pull herself up.

  “Fuck me,” I muttered, and rolled my eyes.

  * * *

 
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